Thanks for visiting my blog. Hope you find some helpful hints for organizing your time and space. My passions are to help you make home a refuge instead of a crisis center, and to help you function in peace rather than chaos - at home or at work. I have switched my main blog to 1-2-3 ... Get Organized on WordPress, so please visit me there.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

How Personality Style Affects Organizing - Introversion/Extraversion

The other day I had my first appointment with a new organizing client,  - husband and wife. We started out, though, looking at their personality styles - a great choice on their part. As a result, they now have a mutual understanding of each other's preferences, giving them insight into how the other may prefer to declutter and downsize. 

Their new "personality type vocabulary" takes the heat out of differences. They can use this vocabulary to discuss their differences in an objective manner. They can see their individual preferences as just that - preferences. Neither preference is right or wrong - merely different.

Since I am both a Myers-Briggs personality type facilitator and a professional organizer, I thought it might be fun to do a series on how personality affects organizing preferences. Today we'll look at the effects of introversion/extraversion on organizing. 

People who prefer introversion process their information and decisions internally. They like to think about something before talking about it. Even then, it may not occur to them to talk about it. 

People who prefer extraversion process their information and decsions externally. They like to talk while they think. 

An introvert might think an extravert is making decisions when he is merely processing. The extravert may not even verbalize his final conclusion. So you can see how misunderstandings happen: the introvert thinks a decision has been made when it has not. 

An introvert likes to have quiet to be able to think and work. If paired with an extravert who is constantly processing externally, it can be irritating and work-inhibiting.

The introvert may wonder why the extravert can't just work without talking. The extravert may wonder why the introvert doesn't share aloud the process leading to a decision. Many introverts will communicate their conclusions or decisions with no details - just the opposite of extraverts. 

An extravert needs encouragement from others, whereas an introvert is self-motivated and self-reinforcing. Many times introverts don't even think about expressing support for others and must intentionally do so.

An extravert will freely express emotions whereas an introvert will hold them in.

Do you see why we're having problems here!?!

Some applications:

- The introvert needs to say "I'm thinking" to let the extravert know he/she has been heard.

- The extravert needs to give the introvert time to make decisions regarding clutter.

- The introvert needs to be sure to communicate what he/she has been thinking once processing is complete.

- The extravert can draw out the introvert by asking, "What are you thinking in terms of getting rid of this item?"

- The extravert needs to say "I'm processing" so the introvert knows a conclusion or final decision may not have been reached. 

- The introvert can clarify by saying "Is this your conclusion or are you processing?"

- The introvert should applaud the extravert during the decluttering process, especially if the extravert is struggling with it.

- An extravert will easily express emotions regarding the decluttering/organizing process or attachments to possessions, whereas an introvert may not be as verbal. If an introvert's emotions are held in too long, there may be an eruption - tears, anger, etc. An extravert can try to draw out some of those emotions before an eruption occurs. 

- If the decluttering/organization process has become too emotional or exhausting, take a break. The extravert should look for such signs in the introvert, who may not readily express them. I recommend around three hours at a time, especially if you are downsizing. Studies have shown that next to losing a spouse, downsizing from a long-time home is the most tramatic experience you can go through. 

- An extravert may prefer decluttering and organizing with a professional organizer or another person.

- An introvert may prefer decluttering and organizing alone once he/she has learned the process. 

Now wasn't that fun?

More on decluttering/downsizing:
Three Steps to Downsizing to a Smaller Residence
Three Steps to Decluttering
Three Steps to Becoming a Downsizing Professional

Monday, August 30, 2010

Organizing College Applications

Do you have a high school junior or senior going through the college application process? Or maybe it's you! The following blog post is from a year or two ago, but it is still just as useful today ...

College applications are complicated - especially when applications are being made to several schools. If you or your child are applying for college this year, organization is essential! Here are a few thoughts:

Using a file cabinet or a plastic crate, label hanging files for each school in the running. Place all pertinent data for each school in its own file. If you want to get extra-organized, have file folders within each hanging file for: applications, school information, notes from a campus visit, etc.

Write application deadlines on one calendar, and set intermediate deadlines to pace yourself.

Make a checklist for each application, listing what is required for each school. Check off each item when completed. Place each checklist in the front its respective application file. With a glance, you can see what’s missing without having to go through the entire file.

Create similar files for financial aid forms, scholarship applications and other areas of interest.

More on getting ready for college:  
Getting Organized for School/College - Software Tools 
Check out CampusCalmU 
Three Steps to Time Management for the College Student 

Friday, August 27, 2010

Getting Organized for School 2010: Homework

We made it through the first day of school without too much trauma! It's not nearly as fun to get up on the second day of school, though. :)

I've repeated this post every year as it is a critical part of your child's success at school. Hope you enjoy it!
Having trouble getting your child to do homework? Or does homework seem to stretch out over an unusually long time? When my children were in school I came up with a solution that gave my girls control and motivation, as well as some training in time management.

While they were having their after-school snack, each girl would list out all her homework assignments on a 3 x 5 card with the estimated time needed to complete each subject. Then, depending on how much time we had that day for homework, she would plan out her homework time, interspersing homework time with play time - a video game, a game with me, a TV show, shooting hoops, playing outside, etc. I recommend 30 minutes studying and 15 minutes to play with longer study times for older kids, shorter for younger.

I found that my kids were motivated to complete their homework in the time they estimated so they could get to playing. Plus homework time didn't turn into an endless expanse of time with no end in sight.

If one of the girls would underestimate the time it took to complete an assignment, her play time was still honored. Just having a change of scenery refreshes the brain.

By giving each girl some control over how she managed her time, she was motivated to do her homework and felt a sense of accomplishment from organizing her homework. Homework was broken up into bite-sized pieces and interspersed with fun. Homework battles were greatly reduced!

A suggestion: study your child. One of my daughters, an introvert, was depleted both physically and socially when she came home from school because she had used up all her words. She needed food and time to regroup before she was ready to talk about her day. My other daughter, also an introvert, wouldn't use up her words at school and was a chatterbox because she felt more comfortable using her words at home.

A child with ADHD may need to get rid of a bunch of energy before sitting down to homework. Each child is different, and as we study our children, we'll have more insight into creating an atmosphere for their success.

More on homework:

Helping Your Child Organize Large Homework Projects
Getting Organized for School - Online Homework Help
Organizing for School - Papers

Thursday, August 26, 2010

If It Ain't Broke ...

The first day of school! The high school eliminated busing for all students to save money. Ugh! So we have to drive them. But our one middle school student is still riding the bus, but it didn't pick her up! Just drove on by. Other than that and a spilled glass of grape juice (luckily on no one's first-day-of-school outfit!), things went pretty smoothly this morning.  On to our topic for today ...
Many times we keep trying new products, even though we're happy with what we're using. Some personality types want to try all that's out there, just in case there might be something better.

If you're happy with your briefcase, make-up, deodorant, car, etc., don't spend hours and dollars searching out and testing out new products. If while living your life you get a chance to try out something new, knock yourself out! 

But looking for new toys or even necessities when what you have works well can gobble up your precious time. Not to mention the clutter it can create!

More on shopping:

When a Bargain is Not a Bargain

10 Ways to Streamline Your Shopping Time

Time Management for the Single Mom


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy - Help for ADD Disorganization

School starts tomorrow for our foster daughters. I predict a spa day! :) 

Great article from US News and World Report Health by  Nancy Shute :

"Adults who struggle with being disorganized, late, and distracted as a result of having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder can benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy that teaches them how to solve problems, use calendars and lists effectively, and write down distractions instead of being distracted by them, according to new research in the Journal of the American Medical Association. But CBT not only helps the 4 percent of adults with ADHD; it also helps children who struggle with schoolwork and friendships because of the disorder.

[Struggling at Work? If It's ADHD, There's Help]

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a technique that teaches skills for handling life challenges or overcoming negative thoughts. CBT for children with ADHD is aimed largely at improving their behavior through praise and rewards that motivate them to calm down enough to cope with school or other challenges. Parents or teachers would be trained to reward a child with praise or small treats for paying attention and responding to requests, for example. That's different than CBT for adults, which teaches thinking and self-management skills. Although CBT doesn't cure ADHD, it does make it easier for children to get along in a world that's often intolerant of typical ADHD behavior, explains Richard Gallagher, an associate professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine. Gallagher is working on a randomized, controlled study that is trying to see if CBT can help children with thinking skills like managing time, keeping track of homework assignments, and planning ahead.

[ADHD Summer Treatment Programs]

The beauty of CBT is that it's very practical, designed so that a person can learn and practice new skills, and then apply them to make life better. Good CBT typically takes 12 weeks of sessions, though some families continue for nine months. Behavioral therapy for ADHD is offered by a number of organizations, including the Institute for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity and Behavior Disorders at New York University's Child Study Center and the Duke Child and Family Study Center in North Carolina. But most families don't live near an academic medical center with a research program on behavioral therapy for ADHD.

[ADHD Drugs Don't Help Children Long Term]

Parents can find an individual therapist who does cognitive behavioral therapy, but it's tricky shopping; many counselors say they do CBT, but really don't follow its simple yet rigorous requirements. A good place to start is the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, which certifies CBT therapists and has a therapist finder on its website. (Here's a blog post I wrote recently on finding good CBT therapy for children, with a nuts-and-bolts explanation of CBT.) Even if a therapist isn't listed with the ABCT, you can use the organization's description of good cognitive behavioral therapy to figure out if a therapist you're considering knows how to deliver it.

The new study on CBT and ADHD, conducted by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital, gave adults who were already being treated with medications such as Ritalin for ADHD 12 weekly one-on-one counseling sessions. The sessions focused on skills training in organization and planning, setting priorities, problem solving, and learning how to persevere in stressful situations. After the training, two-thirds of the participants saw a 30 percent improvement in ADHD symptoms, while just one-third of the control group, which learned relaxation techniques, had improved. The study was led by Steven Safren, director of behavioral medicine at the Massachusetts General Hospital's department of psychiatry, and author of the book Mastering Your Adult ADHD: A Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment Program Therapist Guide (Treatments That Work) (Oxford University Press, 2005). The book is written for therapists, alas, but there's also a guide for adults with ADHD; the guide's website includes a six-question quiz: Do You Think You Have Adult ADHD?

For a positive look at the benefits of ADHD, check out my interview with psychiatrist Ned Hallowell on how to make the most of your child's ADHD. He has ADHD, and his kids do, too. He's convinced that ADHD can help kids master a fast-paced world, if they learn to manage the condition effectively."

More on ADD/ADHD:

ADHD Organization - Time and Energy

Helping Your ADHD Child Get Organized

ADHD Organization - Decision-Making

Three Steps to Time Management

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Cutting Costs on College Textbooks

Here's a repost from days gone by ...

Student Investment Expert Monte Malhotra over at Campus Calm offers the following advice on saving money on college textbooks:

"- Textbooks can be one of the largest expenditures that students face while in college. Unfortunately, many cannot afford the high cost of textbooks in bookstores, and thus, do without. There are low-cost, affordable alternatives so that no student has to go without textbooks.

- Websites like Amazon.com allow third-party merchants to sell textbooks on their site, and offer new and used books as low as 1/3 to 1/2 off. Moreover, Amazon.com offers the International Edition of textbooks, which are the same version of American hardcover books except in paperback. Buying the International Edition of books can offer discounts as low as another 50% off from the hardcover American versions. 

- If you don’t want to buy textbooks, new websites like Chegg.com (there are many other competitors – just perform a simple Google search) will allow you to rent a textbook for a quarter or semester for roughly 1/3 of what it costs to buy a textbook. 

- If none of those options appeal to you, try sharing textbooks with friends. While in college, my friends and I would often buy textbooks together, use them when needed, and then re-sell them at the end of the quarter. 

If you want to cut your costs on textbooks, try one of the above solutions."

More on college:

Monday, August 23, 2010

Getting Organized for School (and life!) 2010 - Getting Enough Sleep

We are on our way home from visiting my parents in Norman, Oklahoma. It was wonderful to see them and my siblings and their families! 

In our attempt to get organized before school starts, I'm reposting an article on sleep - one of my all-time non-negotiables. It's impossible to function well without enough sleep ...

One of the nicest gifts you can give to your child is a good night's sleep. My goal as a mom has been to provide an atmosphere of success - creating an atmosphere where my child can succeed.

In order to do this, I must make sure that I have some routines and personal discipline in place so that my home runs smoothly and my child's needs are met. If I am living in chaos, most likely my child will not have a peaceful atmosphere in which to grow, not to mention having food to eat when hungry, clean clothes, and enough sleep to function effectively.

One of my hot buttons is getting enough sleep - for myself and for my children. Neither of us can do well if we are sleep deprived - we're grouchy, slow to respond, and easily stressed.

I came across an article that details what sleep does for us - makes us better athletes and better drivers, helps us grow, reduces stress, helps us learn and remember, and gives us a positive attitude. Several of these have direct impact on school for our children. Click the link above to read the entire article - important information every parent should know.

Summertime usually means a more relaxed schedule and later bedtimes. Begin now to gradually move bedtime to the time that insures your child gets enough sleep each night. If you sense your child is sleep deprived, make it less gradual - you want your child to start school fresh and invigorated! A good indication that your child (or you) is sleep deprived is that he falls asleep when sitting.

In the meantime, observe your child - how much sleep does she need? A good way to tell is to allow your child to wake up naturally for several days. Observe yourself while you're at it, and figure out what time you need to go to bed in order to get enough sleep. It's worth it, but hard to do.

Even if you don't have school-age children, giving your child enough sleep every night creates an atmosphere where he can succeed and function at his peak. And make sure you get enough sleep yourself - you'll be such a better parent and a much better you!

If you need help making this happen, check out one of our time management books on our website.

More on sleep:
9 Ways to Enhance Your Health by Being Organized
Insuring Peak Performance: Sleep 101
Sleep is Non-negotiable!
Getting a Good Night's Sleep Despite Daylight Savings

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Psychology Behind Hoarding


I came across this article by Jessica Ryen Doyle which appeared on FoxNews.com. It's a bit long, but very enlightening. Unfortunately, the show mentioned in the article aired last Sunday.

"If a stranger would have entered Laura Glasgow’s house last year, they would have been shocked beyond belief.

Some may pass her home off as simply "messy" or "disorganized," but the truth is, Glasgow, 34, of Wilson, N.C., has an anxiety disorder known as hoarding – an excessive collection of items and the inability to get rid of them.

Glasgow, who once had floor-to-ceiling boxes in her house, hoarded everything — clothes, toys for her children, crafts and furniture. In a small house — made even smaller by Glasgow's "collection," — something had to give. Glasgow had so much stuff, the family of five had trouble maneuvering through the clutter.

Slideshow: Inside the House of Hoarders

"It’s a debilitating condition where they accumulate clutter to the point of impairment," said Dr. Julie Pike, a psychologist at Anxiety Disorders Treatment Center in Durham, N.C., of hoarding. "We estimate 2 million people in the U.S. have this problem, but we can’t be exactly sure because people who hoard are very secretive about it."

Going to Extremes

The first extreme case of hoarding came to light in 1947, when police found Homer and Langley Collyer dead inside their Fifth Avenue brownstone in Harlem, N.Y. According to the New York Press, Langley Collyer had transformed their house into a fortress with packing boxes and cartons in interlocking tiers with hidden tunnels. He hoarded thousands of newspapers, books, furniture, clothes, toys – you name it. He had hoarded so much stuff; the house was starting to buckle under the weight of it all, and Langley was buried alive while trying to bring his brother food.

Glasgow’s problem is not so severe, but she knew it was getting worse, so she decided to seek help for her problem by contacting The Learning Channel (TLC). Her story will be featured Sunday on the popular television series "Hoarding: Buried Alive." The show provided her with a therapist – Pike – and an organizer, who helped Glasgow sort through her stuff and clean up her house.

For some people, the clutter becomes so bad, they cannot even leave their own home. When there isn’t any more room to hoard in the house, hoarders may spread their collection to the yard, garage and sometimes to their vehicles.

Some people don’t hoard material possessions; instead they hoard animals, which can create unsanitary living conditions. The Humane Society of the United States estimates 250,000 animals suffer from animal hoarding each year, and the Cummings School of Medicine at Tufts University has reported incidences of as many 1,000 animals living in single-family homes.

In Treatment

Glasgow got help for her problem, which Pike likens to alcoholism – it’s something that will haunt Glasgow for life. It will be up to her how she deals with it.

Glasgow admits her problem became worse after her third child was born and she suffered postpartum depression. She and her husband had moved for his job, and she felt isolated.

"I didn’t have any adult contact, there wasn’t any support system," she said. "That really made the problem explosive."

Incidentally, the Mayo Clinic’s website lists isolation as a trigger for hoarding. Other triggers and risk factors include genetics, stressful life events, age and perfectionism.

"Contrary to popular belief, hoarders are not lazy – they are extreme perfectionists," Pike said.

Glasgow said shopping provided her with a reason to leave the house. So, she convinced herself the family always needed something and pretty soon she was buying more than she could fit in the house.

When the children started making friends, they couldn’t invite them over for play dates, Glasgow explained, because the house was so cluttered, which made her feel guilty – so she bought even more toys for the kids to ease her guilt.

"I was so desperate for help," Glasgow said. "It was a horrible situation."

It’s not known why hoarders develop this kind of problem, but Pike said researchers think it has to do with both nature and nurture.

"We found an abnormality on a chromosome," Pike said. "The other piece is in the brain. The part of the brain that is involved in decision making is different in people who hoard. They do it to avoid the distress of having to make the decision of whether to let go of something."

Pike, who worked with Glasgow on the show, treated her with exposure therapy, a kind of cognitive behavioral therapy.

Exposure therapy is exactly what it sounds like – exposing the person to the thought, behavior or feeling that the person has been trying to avoid, Pike said.

"In this case, we exposed her to the distress of what her hoarding was doing to her family," Pike said. "She said, ‘I’m robbing my kids.’ And the other thing was exposing her physically to the distress of discarding her possessions. The strategy is always to try and increase distress on purpose instead of making them feel better. What happens, they learn once they stop trying to avoid that feeling, it goes away."

To learn more about Laura Glasgow and the psychology behind hoarding, watch "Hoarding: Buried Alive" at 9 p.m. Sunday on TLC."

More on hoarding

Hoarding - There Are No Easy Answers!

When Clutter is Unhealthy 

Self-Help Books for Hoarders and Their Families


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Back-to-School Organizing Tips from 10-Year Olds

Here's a letter to Heloise from an elementary teacher, listing some great organizing tips from her students:

"DEAR HELOISE: I read your column almost every morning, and I saw that you would like ideas from students on how to stay organized. My students, all 10 years old, had a few good ideas to share with you!

I try to find a suitable place to do my homework. In the springtime, I like to do it in the park under a tree.-- Jeremiah

I always read my books in my room where it is quiet and my sisters cannot bother me. -- Olaymi

When I do my homework, I always do the easiest things first so I can feel like I accomplished something. -- Ladell

When I do my homework, I always do the hardest things first so I can breeze through the rest of my assignments. -- Alline

I have a binder for all my assignments; this keeps me organized so I don't lose anything. -- D'Aria

I play beat the clock. I try to have all my work done by a certain time. -- Anthony

Every day when I come home from school, I do my homework at the dinner table, and then I have a snack. -- Spencer

I try to keep a morning and after-school routine so I never forget to do anything. -- Jennifer

I always do my homework in the same place so nothing is misplaced. -- LaJanice

I make a habit of giving my mother all my important papers first, and then I start my homework. I also clean everything up at night so I am ready for the next day. -- Jadi

I have a stopwatch on my phone and set a goal for myself that I try to accomplish. -- Jerry

I always try to keep my room neat and finish my homework by a certain time so I can spend my evenings having fun. -- Haley

I stay organized by doing the same things every day. -- Rebecca

I listen to music when I clean and do the easiest things first. -- Aja

-- Mrs. LaBella, Oak Glen Elementary, Lansing, Ill."

More tips for organizing for school:

Getting Organized for School - Start the Night Before

More Tips for Helping Your ADD Child Stay Organized

Getting Organized for School - Backpack Checklist

Time Management for the College Student

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Organizing Summer Fun When Everyone is Bored: Indoor Decathlon

An indoor decathlon is similar to the outdoor decathlon, but you do it indoors. It’s great for a snow day or a day when it’s 100 degrees! 

I like to alternate short and long games so people don't get bored. 

Examples of games: 
bubble gum blowing
clothes pins in a bottle
pin the _____ on the _____
visible scavenger hunt 
pass the pigs
paper airplane flying contest
elimination jenga
paper balls into a waste basket

I keep the list of games a secret. Then it's a series of surprises.

Gather all the supplies needed for each game.

Create a box or bag of prizes.

Create a score sheet chart with each person listed and each game listed.

After each game, record the scores. If you have five people playing, the person who comes in first gets five points, 2nd place gets 4 points, etc.

After all 10 events are played, the person with the most points is first, etc. #1 get to choose a prize first, #2 second, etc.

More organized fun:

Organizing Summer Fun When Everyone is Bored: Treasure Hunt Dinner

Organizing Summer Fun When Everyone is Bored: Guess the Theme Day

Organizing Summer Fun When Everyone is Bored: Water Spoons


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Helping Your High School Graduate Make an Intentional Plan for Transitioning into College Gracefully - 2010


This is a blog I did last year when we were "relief" parents, having different girls come every week. If you have someone going off to college this year, it might give you something to think about ...

Good Morning! We have girls coming this morning. One of them has graduated from high school and will be heading off to college in less than two months. Going to college is scary the first time! So I thought I'd chat with her about transitioning into college gracefully.

We usually go out to coffee together to have some uninterrupted time together when she's here. I want to ask her how she can make her transition into college a positive one, even though she has a bunch of emotions going on.

She is scared. I want to mention that everyone is scared when they go to college. Just voicing it out loud makes it not so scary. And to know that it's normal helps, too. My own children were scared and excited at the same time, and they had far fewer hurdles to climb than our foster girls have had.

She's be anxious to have freedom! To be a guardian of the county carries with it many guidelines and restrictions. Just to be able to call a friend, their social worker must interview the friend and family! I want to talk to her about the pendulum - how she wants to maintain the same values she has maintained this year and not go to an extreme in the opposite direction just because she can.

I've seen many college students who come from rather controlling homes go crazy their first year in college because they don't know how to handle their freedom. They haven' t been trained in how to make decisions, use discernment, or manage their time. During our girls' last year in high school, we tried to give them more control: we stopped asking if they had homework and such to prepare them for the total freedom they would have in college. We still expected to know where they were and when they'd be back, though. :)

She is so done with the childishness of her peers and siblings. Our girls were ready to move on from the beginning of their senior years! Everyone else at school seemed so petty and immature! I want to talk with our foster daughter about leaving well for the sake of the younger girls in her house. She is setting an example for them - hopefully a graceful one - on transitioning.

Many times our foster girls don't have the luxury of smooth transitions. Their parents do ridiculous things which are unpredictable, and create unpredictable lives for our foster daughters. They are yanked from their homes, schools and neighborhoods. Sometimes over and over. So smooth transitions don't come naturally.

I want our foster daughter to keep the younger girls in mind as she is transitioning - that they are the ones being left, that they will miss her, that they are looking to her as a role model.

She is stressed. There is so much to do before leaving for college! I want to help her think through what her tasks are before leaving: packing, shopping, paperwork, etc. To plan out those tasks will relieve the stress of being rushed at the last minute. I want to help her remove any chaos that doesn't need to be in her life during a very chaotic time.

She is insecure. She is probably wondering if she will be successful in college. She has already changed her major several times this year! I have gone over the Myers-Briggs personality inventory with her to pinpoint what is important to her in a vocation. So that is a huge tool in her tool belt.

I also want to work through my Three Steps to Time Management for the College Student with her to help her determine her own passions, priorities, and gifts. In doing so, she will be confident going into college because she will know what is important to her. And can measure opportunities that arise in light of her own priorities. She will be able to plan her schedule to include her own goals, rather than be at the whim of others. She will be less likely to flounder.

So ... we have a lot to talk about! If you have a child going into college, help make that transition graceful! Tears come, but that's normal, too. :)

More blogs about college:

Organizing For College - Dorm Room
Organizing for College - Guest Blogger Sarah Scrafford
Packing for College, Round 1

Monday, August 16, 2010

Organizing an Important Information Notebook

Over the summer I have been working on a notebook containing information for each of our foster daughters. I have five pocket dividers in my notebook - one for each girl.

I keep a list of doctors, the pharmacy number, school information, sports information, friends' numbers, and anything else that relates to that child. When I need to make a doctor's appointment, I just flip to that page to find the number.

In the pocket I keep business cards, receipts, prescriptions, schedules, etc., until I have a chance to document or use them. 

I also have some notebook paper in each section to take notes when I go to the doctor, etc. I take the notebook to each doctor appointment so I have everything I need while there - pharmacy phone number, referring doctor, etc. 

More on organizing information:

Getting Organized for School - Charts

Organizing for School 2010 - A Family Calendar

Three Steps to Time Management for the Working Mom 

Friday, August 13, 2010

Organizing Your Dorm Room - 2010

I did this post a couple of years ago. As it gets close to move-in time for college, I thought this might be helpful to repeat ...

Lately I’ve been hearing about spacious and luxurious dorm rooms - how nice if you're lucky enough to have one! But this is the exception rather than the rule. Dorm rooms are notoriously small and cramped. So it is essential that you use your space extremely well in order to function at your peak in college.

If you have the chance after you have gotten your room assignment, measure your room, noting where built-ins, plugs, sinks, windows, doors (and which way they open) and other non-movable items are located. There's usually not much room for additional items, but your measurements allow you to purchase additional storage, for example, with accuracy.

One of the keys in organizing a dorm room is using the vertical space. Many schools have a loft option for the beds, which allows you to utilize the space below the bed efficiently. Adding additional storage options in this area or purchasing tall storage units will maximize your vertical space. Adhesive hooks also add storage for hats, keys, and other such items without using premium storage real estate.

Utilize hanging storage units in your closet, on the back of the door, etc. Don't forget those spaces at the bottom of your closet and under your bed (if you don't choose the loft option) for extra storage containers, drawers or cubbies. All these cute storage options multiply your storage capacity while using normally non-usable space.

Be realistic about the space you have! Only bring to school that which can fit in your dorm room. A sure-fire way to guarantee a mess is not having a home for everything. If you will be traveling back home before winter sets in, only bring summer and fall clothing with a few transitional items. Swap out seasonal items each time you go home.

There's nothing that gets out of hand quicker than paper! Have a place for files and paperwork, whether it's in a desk file drawer, hanging files in a crate, or a rolling file unit. This eliminates lost papers and wasted time looking for them. Don't forget to use your wall space for bulletin boards and message boards - another great way to coral paper, important messages and reminders.

Make use of small containers with lids for school supplies, food, and toiletries. Crates turned on their sides make great stackable shelves. Rolling drawer units are space-conscious, as well.

Figure out a few minutes each day or each week to declutter, and your room will be a cozy haven! Declutter while you're on the phone, watching a movie, or talking with your roommate, and you'll be doubling your time.

Speaking of doubling your time, to get the most out of college check out Three Steps to Time Management for the College Student.

More on college:
Packing for College, Round 1
Organizing for College - Guest Blogger Sarah Scrafford
Organizing For College - Dorm Room

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The #1 Cure for Accumulating Clutter

Want to know my secret for not accumulating clutter? Stop shopping! I'm just fine as long as I don't know what it is that I'm missing. The problem with shopping, though, is that you find things you can't live without even though you didn't know they existed before you went shopping. :)

Recreational shopping is dangerous - it has a way of increasing your appetite for things. I try to go shopping only when I need something and shop just for that. It's hard, but it works.

So do yourself a favor and shop only when you need to and avoid window shopping. And it will be less likely that you will accumulate more clutter.

More on accumulating less clutter:

Intentional Contentment - An Antidote to Clutter

When a Bargain is Not a Bargain

Decluttering Newspapers and Magazines

Three Steps to Decluttering

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Taking Advantage of Sales Tax Holidays for Organizing, Moving and Office Supplies

If you are in need of organizing, moving, or office supplies, this is a great time to take advantage of back-to-school tax holidays. Here are excerpts from an article by John Stevens, listing numerous states and their tax savings: 

"Several states have instituted sales tax holidays this August, to give families a break while shopping for school supplies and to stimulate local economies. Many retail stores are offering special deals to coincide with tax-free days. 

Although the tax holidays are intended for back to school shoppers, many packing and organizing supplies, such as strapping tape and file folders, will be tax-free as well. People who are thinking of moving their files into storage, or decluttering a home in preparation for putting it on the market, may want to take advantage of the August tax-free holidays.

The states that will have tax holidays include:

  • Connecticut, which offers a holiday next weekend, from Aug. 15-21.
  • Florida, which is offering a holiday from its six percent sales tax next weekend (from Aug. 13-15). Florida’s tax holiday will cover clothing and accessories under $50 and school supplies that sell for $10 or less.
  • Illinois, which is waiving its five percent sales tax on school supplies and most clothing (under $100) for ten days (through August 15). Although Illinois is waiving its state sales tax, it will still collect a 1.25 percent tax which goes to counties and towns, as well as any local city taxes that may apply. The event is Illinois’ first ever tax holiday, and is being offered even though the state has a record-breaking $13 billion budget deficit.
  • Maryland's tax holiday runs until next Saturday (8/14). The holiday will apply to clothes and shoes under $100, which in Maryland is a six percent discount.
  • Massachusetts, which will have its tax holiday next weekend, August 14 and 15. The holiday will save shoppers a 6.25 percent sales tax. Last year, Massachusetts skipped its tax holiday because of state budget problems.
  • Texas, which is offering a sales tax holiday from August 20-22. Texas’ holiday will apply to most clothing and shoes under $100, backpacks under $100, and school supplies under $100.
The state of Georgia, however, dropped its tax holiday this year. State lawmakers said that they could not afford the loss of $12 million in taxes at a time when Georgia is running a $2 billion deficit. Washington D.C. shoppers will not get a sales tax holiday either, because local officials felt the holiday was costing the district too much money (about $1.3 million).

Most states offer a tax holiday to make it easier for families to buy school supplies. Some states, however, drop taxes to make it easier for families to prepare for hurricanes or other disasters, to make it easier to buy energy-efficient appliances, or even to buy firearms.

Researchers say that the tax holidays do little to stimulate the economy, since most consumers are buying items that they would have had to buy anyway, but are delaying the purchases to coincide with the tax holidays."

More on saving:

No Cost Organizing: Drawer Dividers

Coupon Sources

Organizing Back to School Shopping


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Organizing for School 2010 - A Family Calendar

At the end of summer, I'm usually feeling like life is out of control. It's been nice to have a less restrictive schedule, but I'm ready to have a little more routine. And being an introvert, I'm looking forward to having a little more time to myself and to spend on my business, which I greatly minimize during the summer. So here's a rerun of a post I did last year about getting organized for school:

Getting Organized for School - Family Calendar

I'm taking another look at getting ready for school - if you start now and get yourself organized, life will not be so chaotic when school starts. The following is a revamp from last year's post on the same subject.

A major aspect of getting ready for school (or life) is having a family calendar in a location where everyone can check in to see what's going on. It's best if it is located at your hub (see my post on this subject, listed below).

Your calendar can be an organizing software program on your computer/laptop or a wall calendar.

There are a number of great software programs that track several family members (some are free!). And there are several personal spiral/notebook type organizers - my favorite being the Planner Pad. I've done reviews of both software programs and notebook type organizers and will link the related posts below.

When my children were home, we used a huge calendar on the side of our refrigerator. My friend Carole, hangs hers inside one of her kitchen cabinets so it's not so unsightly. 

I like the look of Mom's Plan It Calendar. It's a 17-month calendar which can track up to 5 family members, with stickers, and more. 

2011 Mom's Plan-It Plan-It Plus Calendar

You can use a different color pen or marker for ea
ch person, and a separate color for family activities. Then it's a breeze to decipher your daily activities!

I use my Palm software and post the schedule on the fridge each week, including our dinner menus!

More on Calendars/Organizers:

Getting Organized for School - Creating a Hub 
Product Review of Organizers - Daily Home Planner  
Product Review of Organizers - The Planner Pad
Product Review of Organizers - PDAs 
The Final Review of Organizers 
Cozi 2.0, Oops

Monday, August 9, 2010

Organizing Summer Fun When Everyone is Bored: A Crazy Dinner

Last week as we sat down for dinner, the girls asked us if we were missing something since we had neither utensils or plates on the table. Nope, it is a crazy dinner.

I had printed the list below, cut it into strips, and placed the strips in a paper lunch bag. We proceeded with dinner, eating one item at a time: pork chops, pasta salad, and fruit.

With each item, each person drew a slip out of the bag. He/she must eat that item using the utensil and container on his/her slip of paper. 

We laughed so hard throughout the entire meal. We topped it off with brownies which we had to eat using no hands! One of the girls suggested whipped cream, so we had a glorious mess putting our faces into our brownies. And we have pictures to provie it! Unfortunately, we are not allowed to post pictures of our foster daughters. :(

This simple list turns an ordinary dinner into a crazy, fun one! Thanks to my friend Margaret for giving me the idea.

Pan lid with a wooden spoon

Punch cup with a spatula

Heart dish with a plastic knife

Plastic cup with a relish fork

Pan with tongs

Pie plate with a large ladle

Angel food cake pan with an ice cream scoop

Bread pan with a measuring teaspoon

Syrup pitcher with a teaspoon

Mug with a soup spoon

Juice glass  with a measuring tablespoon

Serving bowl with a slotted spoon

Corn dish with a butter knife

Egg cup with a small ladle

Glad container with chop sticks

Spring form pan with corn holders

Stock pot with salad serving fork

Large measuring cup with a rubber scraper

Large white bowl with a cooking fork

2-quart pitcher with a melon baler

Crockpot with a wooden spatula

9 x 9 pan with a slotted spatula

Cake pan with ice tongs

Corningware with an icing knife

More on organizing summer fun:

Organizing Summer Fun When Everyone is Bored: A Random Act of Kindness

Organizing Summer Fun When Everyone is Bored: Guess the Theme Day

Organizing Summer Fun When Everyone is Bored: A Unique Dinner

Three Steps to Planning Your Child's Parties 

Friday, August 6, 2010

Getting Rid of Guilt-Producing Expectations

Have some well-meaning people given you gifts that don't relate to your interests, skills, or priorities? Sometimes people give gifts they would love to have themselves rather than study their recipient's desires. Without meaning to, they may have piled some guilt onto you. 

Or you may have those in your life who think you need to know how to do certain things and provide you with the associated tools. They may not care if you want to do those things, but are imposing their own expectations on you.

Or you may have bought these items yourself because you "should" use them, thereby heaping expectations on yourself.

- You may have received craft items from an artsy person, when you think you're doing well to draw stick figures. 

- Or some do-it-yourself tools when your typical DIY outcome is to glue your fingers together with super glue. 

- Or you may have purchased fancy gardening gadgets because you feel you should have curb appeal like HGTV, but you really hate gardening.

If items around your house produce guilt because you think you "should" use them, but they just don't fit with who you are, get rid of them! Someone out there would love to have those things that are oppressing you!

Life is too short to be bound by yours or someone else's unrealistic expectations!

More on decluttering guilt:

Guilt-Ridden Clutter

Understanding the ADD Mindset

Three Steps to Decluttering

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Starting Small with Clutter

If decluttering is overwhelming to you, start small. 

For example, if you're decluttering clothes and can't bear to part with all your "small" clothes or "large" clothes, don't get rid of all of them. Select a few outfits you really love, in case you change sizes. Just don't keep them all! 

Or, if you're decluttering books, start with one shelf. See if you can get rid of half of the books on that shelf. Ask yourself, am I going to read this again? Would someone else benefit from it? 

Don't feel you need to tackle your entire decluttering job at once. Start small!

Remember, you want to surround yourself with possessions you love. Do not let your clutter overshadow your beloved items and make it so you cannot enjoy them. 

More on decluttering:

Three Steps to Decluttering

Intentional Contentment - An Antidote to Clutter

One Sign That Your Clutter is Out of Control

Make it Easy to Get Rid of Things

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Review: Personal Microderm

I was asked to review the Personal Microderm, a microdermabrasion at home product by SkinCareRx. I'm not sure how this relates to organizing, but who would refuse?

The personal microderm is easy to use once you get used to it. It is a small hand-held appliance with two sizes of rotating heads - one for the face and one for the body.

It only took a few minutes to go over my face and hands, the areas I was most concerned about. Both areas look improved after just three uses. And it's so nice to use it right at home. 

Organizing Summer Fun When Everyone is Bored: A Visual Scavenger Hunt

Gotta squeeze some more fun in before summer ends!

Visual Scavenger Hunt - hide small items out in the open (either inside or outside), but blending with surroundings.

Example: chocolate chip on a brown window sill.  Things to hide: paper clip, staple, rubber band,  penny, twist tie, chocolate chip,  raisin, birthday candle , red hot, piece of gum, push pin, nail, balloon, screw, button, key, straight pin, golf tee.

Give each person a list of all items “hidden.” They write down where the item is located without moving it or giving away the location. The one who finds the most items wins.

This can be added to the decathlon as one of the games.

More about organizing summer fun:

Organizing Summer Fun When Everyone is Bored: Outdoor Decathlon

Organizing Summer Fun When Everyone is Bored: A Unique Dinner

Organizing Summer Fun When Everyone is Bored: Treasure Hunt Dinner

Three Steps to Planning Your Child's Parties 


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Organizing Back to School Shopping

Can you believe it's almost time for school?! Here's a blog I've done before to help reduce the stress of getting ready for school. We used these tips for our own daughters and some of them for our foster daughters. Hope you enjoy them:

If we took our cues from the stores, we would think summer is over, even though it seems like it just began! After the 4th of July, all summer clothes are on sale and winter clothes will soon be on the racks, even though we are sweltering! Great time to beef up your summer wardrobe, if need be.

If you need to shop for back-to-school clothes or if you have children who need to do so, here are a few tips:

1. Take inventory of what you have. If you have children, tackle this job one child at a time. Make a list of all tops, categorizing them separately - short sleeve, long sleeve, t-shirts, dressy, dressy casual, etc. Do the same with bottoms - shorts, capris, jeans, skirts, dress pants, etc.

2. While going through the closet, start a donation pile and a throwaway/rag pile and a giveaway pile for clothing you want to pass on to specific people.

3. Make a list of all the possible outfits, both summer and winter.

4. It will become obvious which articles of clothing have no matches or matching accessories - shoes, socks, jewelry, belts, etc.. Make a shopping list.

5. NOW it's time to shop! If you are shopping for your children, make back-to-school shopping a fun event. If you can, take one child at a time, have lunch together, and make it a special day.

Even though this process takes a while, it is far more productive. You may discover outfits you never considered, you'll clear the closet of unwanted items, and your shopping will be intentional rather than haphazard, which will likely save you money. And you and/or your child will have a list of outfits to wear - especially helpful on those days when choosing an outfit seems overwhelming!

Similar topics:

Organizing Your Child's Room   
Get Oranized Month 2009 - Organizing Your Clothes Closet
Get Organized for School - Clothing Inventory
Getting Organized for School - Learning Style

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Secret of Not Having to Clean Every Day

I had some much-needed time off during the last of July. I celebrated my birthday and got royally spoiled by my husband: flowers, a card and a salmon dinner he cooked himself. And a day to read - such luxury I don't often get. :) And to top it off, one of my daughters surprised me with a visit!
I also spoke at the National Gift Basket Convention on "Leaving an Intentional Legacy" about planning your time around your passions, priorities and gifts so you are doing what you are designed to do. Busy, but a very interesting and enlightening experience!!
Our five foster daughters came back on the evening of the 29th and we've already been to the emergency room twice! Back to reality!
On to my funny little blog for today:
The Secret of Not Having to Clean Every Day
I read recently about a way not to clean each day: get some get well cards and put them on your mantel so that when friends drop by they'll think you've been sick! LOL!